This weekend in the wine shop was pretty typical, with the usual parade of characters. Stalwart shoppers who always know what they want, and the occasional newcomer with a plan and a list. And then the regular sprinkling of the lost and confused, who are really the best customers, because they need and want so much loving direction. At least that’s what I thought until my new favorite kind of customer walked in.
“I want to branch out. I drink a lot of cabernet and zinfandel and I’m getting tired of it, “ she explained.
“How far do you want to branch out, “ I asked. “I mean, how geeky are you willing to get?”
“A lot geeky. Yes, very geeky. I want to learn new things, try new wines, find entirely new experiences with wine. I need to know more than what I know now.”
Wow. It’s not too often that folks come in so determined to stretch themselves, to run at full speed towards the wine horizon. Talk about a breath of fresh air. She was taking one, and getting me to take one with her. We talked about why she liked cab and zin and tried to discern what sorts of new flavors and feelings she was looking for, what sorts of foods she preferred. She wanted to stay relatively full-bodied, but was open, ultimately, to just about any new grapes I thought she’d enjoy. After a bit more chitchat she settled on a pinot grigio from Friuli, along with two Spanish faves of mine, an old vine garnacha and a crianza Rioja. Not so full-bodied, perhaps, but they would certainly be a change from her Napa cabs and zins. When she got to the cash register we were both smiling, delighted with the baby steps she had just taken. She was confident, determined, and eager for a deeper wine experience. She was the best customer of the day.
This is what a vast majority of wine drinkers need to do. Find a local wine shop, not a big box store, with a relatively diverse inventory. Talk to the folks there and tell them you want to earn your explorer’s badge, that the narrow confines of your current wine experience are making you a bit claustrophobic. Tell them that you need some breathing room. It’s time to admit to yourself that you need some fresh air.
A bottle here and a bottle there. Maybe a magazine or reference book or two. My new favorite shopper didn’t apologize for her limited acumen. Instead she boldly proclaimed her desire to grow and learn. To bend and stretch. She was ready to reach for the stars. How about you?